If someone says to another, no longer go here, do this or that, it can be taken two different ways. One might be a punishment of the individual being told to NOT, the other may be a boycott of the here, this, or that. The latter is what God is telling Jeremiah in 11:14. He says to him, [ESV] “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.”
The “this people” to which is referred in verse 14 is those living in Judah. Jeremiah loved his Tribal people and had previously begged God to overlook their sins ONE MORE TIME. The people of Judah had pushed God to the end of his patience. His judgement was pending and almost upon them. He knew Jeremiah’s love for them and his attempts to get them to do away with their idolatry. Matthew 10:14 is similar to God telling Jeremiah to “let it go.” “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”
[Oddly enough both verses in Jeremiah and Matthew are V14. There is no scriptural implication by this but it will help the bible student to remember the verse addresses].
God is giving Jeremiah the same marching instructions in chapter 11 that Jesus gave his disciples in the book of Matthew chapter 10. It is not our job as Christian witnesses to bring people to the Lord as much as it is our responsibility to bring the Word of God to them. Every decision for Christ is a personal one. Brow beating is never suggested by God (O.T.) or Jesus (N.T.). This is the job of conviction and that is part of the job description of the Holy Spirit.
The first few verses of Jeremiah 11 are reminders of what God had done for Israel as a whole. This includes by default a consequence for not recalling God’s intervention on multiple occasions on behalf of Israelis. The covenants or promises God made with Israel (and the Christian Church) always include an “If you do______, then I will do _____.” Of course, this also means if Israel or today’s Christian (church) does not fulfill his or her end of the covenant-promise, God is no longer obligated to fulfill His end, thus a consequence is in order.
Verse 4 specifically tells Jeremiah that God is talking about the agreement I (God) mane with Jeremiah’s ancestors when He brought them out of bondage in Egypt 1,000 years before Jeremiah’s time. ‘Listen to me and obey all the commands I give you. Then you will be my people and I will be your God.’ We would be wise to continue doing the same today…obeying his commands. However, if one does not study the commands of God and Jesus we will not know them. In secular terms, ignorance of the law is not a defense in court.
Verse 5 is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob fulfilled their end of the covenant as did Moses and ultimately Joshua. This resulted in several million Israelites ending up in a fertile and Promised Land. God said to Jeremiah, “You are living in that land today!” many Christians today think us immune to punishment if we do not follow the prescribed “way of living” in the Christian life. This is the message of Satan, not God. Two examples:
Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV) My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 15:5 (NIV) A fool spurns his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
We can add a third example in Hebrews 12:11… “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Jeremiah 11:9-11 is the consequence. God is no longer going to listen to their cries. In a modern way of thinking, it is similar to making a promise for reprieve or safety but once that is gained, we forget our end of the promise. It is the basis of the saying, “foxhole Christian.” God says I will no longer listen to their pleas. This then takes us up to our opening statement when God commands Jeremiah in verse 14 to NOT PRAY FOR THEM. But we must not skip the meaning of 11:13. It is saying that Israel has as many different gods as are the cities and villages in Judah. The streets in Jerusalem number fewer than the number of idol alters in that city alone. It is the final straw for God.
Earlier in Jeremiah we discussed that the people of Judah felt safe because they had the Temple in their city. God is telling Jeremiah that it isn’t the temple (sanctuary in modern terms) that will save and redeem, but it is God alone. This may help one to understand. If one carries a picture of Jesus on his or her person or carries a bible to church, somehow this is good enough? Even asking this question begs of silliness.
At verse 16 God makes a comparison with a young, strong Olive tree that is nourished by its planter. God had fulfilled one of his covenants by planting the offspring of Abraham in the Promised Land. The blessing of the olives was plentiful but by this time in history, Judah was taking all this for granted. God therefore is going to pull them out of the Promised Land (garden of plenty) and transplant them in a foreign land. The analogy continues when Jeremiah discovers his fellow villagers in Anathoth are out to kill him. He becomes the tree they wish to cut down.
By verse 20 Jeremiah is no longer defending his people of Anathoth, Jerusalem or Judah. He is calling for God to fulfill his promise of a consequence for not obeying; refusing to rid the kingdom of idols, confess their sins to God, and worship only him. Specifically, those men of men of Anathoth who connive to kill Jeremiah will be punished. They will be left with no heirs. Not all of Anathoth, but those who threatened Jeremiah will pay for their threats.
“Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine, [v23] and none of them shall be left. For I will bring disaster upon the men of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.” [ESV]
Preview of our next study article
Jeremiah 12 brings a very interesting question to the study table. Why does it seem that the evil people prosper while those who wish to follow God-Christ seem too often to come up short? This is very much contemporary today. We will see this in full in our chapter 12 discussion.